Charles Billingsley Talks About His Recent Battle with COVID-19, Writing with Paul Baloche, His New Album & More

Charles Billingsley

Acclaimed singer/songwriter and worship leader Charles Billingsley has recently released I Was Made For This, his first studio project in two years. The highly anticipated StowTown Records (Provident/Sony) set was produced by Keith Everette Smith-a multi-GRAMMY® and Dove Award winner and member of TobyMac's Diverse City Band-and showcases newly-penned originals alongside classic pop favorites.   
Highlighted by the new title-track, a vibrant worship anthem declaring the Savior's glory, I Was Made For This includes "Rise Up," co-written by Billingsley and Paul Baloche; the introspective "Sing For My Soul"; and "Spirit of God," featuring singer/songwriter Tasha Layton. The album also showcases a new arrangement of Newsboys' megahit "We Believe," as well as covers of two 1980s favorites: Mr. Mister's "Kyrie" and the poignant "Fragile," written and originally recorded by Sting.  

Q: Charles, thanks for doing this interview with us. I have been listening to your new album this morning and I'm loving it. It has a more distinctive contemporary pop sound which is quite different from many of the albums coming out from StowTown Records. Was this the direction you wanted when you were making this record?

Oh yes!  I've always been much more of an AC artist and contemporary worship leader. I admire Stowtown for branching into some new genres and I appreciate their partnership on this project. It was a ton of fun to make and I'm thrilled you like it! 

Q:  On this album, you got to work with Keith Everette Smith as producer. Tell us a little about Keith. What did he bring to the record that you appreciated?

I've known Keith since he was a college student at Ohio State. I heard him playing these screaming trumpet parts and immediately offered him a scholarship to Liberty University to come help me start a brass line for our worship services. At that time, I only knew that he was an amazing trumpet player. Once he got to Liberty, we discovered he had an immense amount of talent in so many areas of music. He is truly a gifted and brilliant producer. This is the fourth record he has produced for me, and I love Keith because he really strives to understand my heart and ministry and helps me reinvent myself as an artist with each new project. We also wrote a lot together on this record, so that was fun as well.   

Q:  You also got to write a song on the record with veteran worship leader Paul Baloche.  How did you get to work with Paul?

Paul is such a wonderful guy. We have been casual friends since we shared the platform at a National Worship Leaders conference a few years ago. I'm a big fan of his writing, so when I needed to write a theme song for the Women of Joy conferences, I asked Paul to help me. He is a brilliant and prolific writer, so it didn't take long for us to finish "Rise Up."  

Q:  This is also a very diverse record which I love. Why did you decide to take Newsboys' "We Believe"?

I felt like I needed one or two moments on this project where people would just sing along immediately. I was in concert in Florida last year, and my accompanist just broke into "We Believe" at one point. Since then, I've enjoyed singing it. It's a fantastic statement of faith, so I decided to cover it. It features the gospel choir from Liberty University, LU Praise, along with the choir of Thomas Road Baptist Church where I teach and lead worship. I placed it last on the project because I think the lyric is a wonderful exclamation point with which to end a listening experience.  

Q:  Then there are two 80s covers from Mr. Mister and Sting.  What's the story behind these 80s covers?  

I've always wanted to do a remake of Mr. Mister's "Kyrie." It was one of my favorite songs in high school. Plus, the lyric "Kyrie," which means "Lord, have mercy," fit the theme of this project very well. The timing just felt right to put it on this recording. Keith did an amazing job on this track. We worked hard to maintain the integrity of the original recording, and then we added killer brass parts to give it an edge and set it apart from the original. It is Mr. Mister-meets-Chicago, and I love it. Plus, I added 24 tracks of background vocals, so the sound on this track is huge!

Q:  My favorite track off the album is "Play the Man."  What's the story behind this song?

I'm thrilled this is your favorite track. It's a song I wrote for my two sons, Caleb and Cooper. They are 19 and 20 now, and I wanted to write a song for them about what it means to be a man of God. I connected with the fabulous lyricist Tony Wood, and he helped me finish the song. The title is inspired by Mark Batterson's book, Play the Man. The phrase originates from Polycarp, a first century bishop of the Christian church who was martyred for his faith. As he was being burned at the stake, an audible voice-heard by everyone in the crowd-said, "Be strong, Polycarp, play the man."   

Q:  The title of the record is "I Was Made for This."  What is the "this"?

"This" is that thing we were all created to do-worship the Lord God. Colossians 1 tells us "All things were created by Him and FOR Him." We were created FOR the Jesus. We exist for His glory. So "this" is that life that is meant to bring God honor and glory in all things, through all things, and for all things.  

Q: How was your relationship with Christ challenged during your recent battle with COVID-19?

Wow. I could write for hours about this, but the short answer is that all of this has reminded me of how fragile life is. It has also reminded me how essential it is to be growing in our faith and in our walk with the Lord. We are not meant to just praise the Lord in the good times. In fact, it is in the bad times that we truly learn what it means to worship Him. But when you walk, or sometimes crawl, through the depths of the valley and you finally come through the other side, you always see how He was there all along....carrying you, walking beside you, standing behind you.   

I've also been reminded of how important it is to remove any fear and doubt from my mind and my heart. The Lord tells us 365 times in scripture to not be afraid. Paul tells us to "be anxious for nothing." And Jesus tells us to never worry. When we worry, we are essentially telling God, "I don't think you can handle this."  Through this virus, God has reminded me again that I must worry less and enjoy worship more.  

Q: What message do you have for others who are fearful of the virus and the uncertainty in the world right now? 

There has always been uncertainty in the world. There is uncertainty every time you leave the house in your car, or get on a plane, or are in a crowd of people. There are so many threats out there, but we typically never even think about them. Then suddenly, a virus comes along that is highly contagious-and yes, deadly to many-and with all the media attention and government restrictions, it begins to strike fear into the hearts of millions.  

If you are feeling fearful but you are also a Christian, then I would encourage you to be reminded of all the scripture in His word that tells us we have nothing to fear. It doesn't mean we become irresponsible with our actions, but it does mean that God is still absolutely in control. None of this has taken Him by surprise. We will get through this, and He still has a plan and a purpose for your life. So rather than being fearful, dive into His word, fall deeper in love with Jesus, trust Him with all your heart, and find your rest in Him. For when your soul is at rest, it cannot be in fear.  


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